Animal shelter staff and volunteers say either their kitten numbers are way up, or resident felines are feeding all nine lives at once.

The Jackson County Animal Shelter put out a call for donations of dry kitten food — or adult food in small kibble size — this week in light of an alarming shortage. As of late Thursday, shelter manager Barbara Talbert tallied more than 50 cats and kittens at the shelter, with another 80 or more kittens dispersed in foster homes throughout the community.

One office employee referred to the influx of kittens as “a lotta, lotta, tiny little mouths to feed.”

“We have very limited operating funds, and we’re at the height of kitten season, so our supplies are stretched thin,” Talbert said.

The shelter, at 5595 S. Pacific Highway, Phoenix, could use money from its limited budget to pay for kitten food, but that would reduce funds for medical expenses and other needs.

“We pretty much don’t have a budget for food, so we rely on donations, which generally come in pretty steadily,” she said.

Local retailers, including Walmart and PetSmart, donate damaged bags of food or returned product and hold food drives, which keeps the shelter's kibble bill at a minimum.

While most of the donated supplies are used at the shelter, Talbert said, some are given to volunteer foster families, upon request, to help offset the cost of fostering.

“We try to provide food when we’re able," Talbert said. "And we would be able to buy food if we needed to, but it might mean we wouldn’t be able to do as much in terms of medical care.

“Fortunately, we haven’t had to make those types of decisions yet. Our community usually comes through pretty well for us.”

Shelter officials said donations of any dry food would be gratefully accepted.

For information on additional donations needed at the shelter, call 541-774-6654 or visit www.fotas.org/ways-to-give.

— Reach Medford freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.